Why Does Advent Calendar Chocolate Taste Different?

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iStock

By Sarah Dobbs

If there’s one thing that can make a dark, cold, miserable December morning more bearable, it’s chocolate. Specifically: a tiny square of chocolate that you’ve had to spend five minutes prying out of the grip of the plastic mold inside your Advent calendar. Somehow, there’s something different about Advent calendar chocolate. Technically, you could just break off a chunk of a Hershey Bar every day, but the ritual of finding the right door, carefully opening it, and savoring your prize makes Advent calendar chocolate special.

Is it actually different from normal chocolate, though? Well, that depends on the calendar.

If you buy a branded calendar from a chocolate manufacturer, like Cadbury or Lindt, then you can expect the chocolate to taste pretty similar to the candymaker's regular fare, even if the size and shape of the treat might be different.

Advent calendar chocolate is usually pretty thin, and generally comes as a square with rounded corners and an embossed shape on its surface. That means it will melt quickly when you put it on your tongue, and the relatively large surface area means your taste buds are getting a pretty intense chocolate hit. And while you might typically take another bite or reach for another sweet quite quickly, with Advent calendar chocolate you know you only get one piece per day, so most people will take their time to savor it a little longer.

Basically, it tastes different because you’re paying more attention to it.

If you’ve got a more generic calendar, though, you might be getting a kind of chocolate you don’t often eat.

Cheap chocolate often isn’t "real" chocolate at all: it’s something called compound chocolate, which means that instead of being made with cocoa butter, it’s made with cheaper fats. In all likelihood, it’s made with palm kernel oil, or possibly coconut oil. That gives it a different flavor than true chocolate, and can also give it a slightly different texture, making it seem slightly waxy or a bit oily. Compound chocolate is actually easier to work with and to mold into shapes, and that, along with the lower price point, means it is ideal for Advent calendars.

So yes, you might find that the chocolate in your Advent calendar tastes nothing like the chocolate you plan on serving at your holiday party. Whether you prefer it or not comes down to your own personal taste—plus a healthy dose of nostalgia. If you have fond memories of tucking into Advent calendar chocolate in the lead-up to idyllic childhood Christmases past, it probably tastes like pure joy.

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What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

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iStock

For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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Why Do Tires Have to Be Filled With Air?

BookyBuggy/iStock via Getty Images
BookyBuggy/iStock via Getty Images

Paul Misencik:

This is an issue that has perplexed me for most of my life, because pneumatic tires filled with air seem like the last anachronistic, 19th-century component of a modern automobile, and an idea which should have disappeared many decades ago. In an era where even the internal combustion engine itself is giving way to electric motors, and where a new economy hatchback has exponentially more computing power than the Space Shuttle, pneumatic tires don’t seem to make sense any longer.

(And before I get flamed, I know modern tires are vastly more advanced and reliable and capable than their 1930s counterparts. Blowouts, which were a common occurrence when I was a kid, are pretty much unheard of today. Modern tires are great, but they are still vulnerable and maintenance-intensive in a way that doesn’t make any sense to me.)

Companies have experimented with non-pneumatic passenger vehicle tires in the modern age—one of the primary drivers was Michelin. But the tires weren’t filled with solid rubber. In fact, they didn’t even have sidewalls. They were open on the sides, and they had a support lattice of structural polyester ribs, with a ton of air space between the contact patch and the (now deformable) wheel.

One of the big problems with switching from pneumatic tires to non-pneumatic tires is the fact that the current air-filled tire is an important component of the suspension of a vehicle. The flex in the sidewall is a critical part of the compliance of the suspension and substantially affects a vehicle's ride and handling. (Which is why race car drivers sweat tire pressures at each corner of the vehicle so much, as even a small change in tire pressure can have a big effect on the handling and grip of a vehicle.)

If a company like Michelin wants to make a non-pneumatic tire, they'll improve their chances of finding success with it if the new design mimics the compliance and flex characteristics of the outgoing, air-filled models as closely as possible. That way, Michelin would be able to sell the new, non-pneumatic design as a retrofit to older vehicles whose suspensions were originally designed with pneumatic tires in mind. And that is hugely important because if they can’t, it becomes much more difficult to convince manufacturers to change over to the new design—particularly after the mild debacle of Michelin’s failed “TRX” metric tire idea of the 1980s, which required the use of a special wheel and which, despite being by most accounts a superior design in almost every way, never really took off. (Owners of 1980s Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxers and some Saab 900 turbos will know what I’m talking about here.)

Non-pneumatic Michelin tires are also rather weird looking, and it’s not clear which manufacturers, if any, would take the risk of being the first to offer them on a new car.

So that is the real issue: Any non-pneumatic tire design must be not only clearly superior to the pneumatic designs of the past, but it must be functionally identical to the outgoing models they would replace, and they must be visually acceptable to consumers.

I hope it happens, though. I hope someone cracks the nut. Pneumatic tires are a 19th-century application still being used on 21st-century vehicles, and at some point that needs to change.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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